Conserving and restoring coral reefs

Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat for over 30% of marine species. The decline of coral reefs has an impact on millions of people around the world.

Coral reefs are crucial for protecting shorelines because they buffer wave action as it comes in and absorb the energy of storms to protect coastal communities.

Climate change increases storm frequency and intensity, which means that preservation of coral reefs and other ecosystems which protect the coast is more important than ever.

Globally, reef degradation has decimated coral reef populations in recent decades. In the Caribbean many of the most important corals are close to extinction. If we do not intervene in coral reef decline now, in 10-20 years there will not be any coral reefs left.

I conducted my PhD fieldwork in Mexico, in Akumal, a small coastal community where I led a reef restoration project and trained around 30 local people to go out at night and collect coral spawn, with the techniques developed by collaborators at the Coralium lab, National Autonomous University of Mexico.

I also work with Operation Wallacea to train university students in scientific diving and data collection techniques, and with their help we collect large datasets on biogeochemical parametres of coral reefs and develop novel techniques for measuring reef metabolism.

Anyone can get involved in restoration and coral reef science, so I love to get young people involved in doing something practical that they can see is making a difference.

Why Glasgow?

Glasgow is my favourite city in the UK, thanks to its incredible people and beautiful architecture and scenery. ‘People make Glasgow’ is a slogan, but it is true; I have never been to another UK city where I feel as at ease and welcome. The city is a hub for creativity and there are plenty of areas of natural beauty to explore within a short distance.

The School of Geographical and Earth Sciences is truly interdisciplinary. From human geographers to astrophysicists, the conversations in the lunchroom are fascinating. As a marine biology graduate, being surrounded by geochemists has broadened my research interests and has helped me to upscale my project. The Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine also has amazing talks and events geared towards biologists and ecologists, with an incredibly welcoming social scene for post-grad students.

The best thing about the University of Glasgow has been the other graduate students who I have met throughout my time here. I have friends from fields that I would otherwise not have any contact with, and I am lucky to be inspired by their ambitions and determination to succeed.

Why biogeochemistry of coral reefs?

I have been addicted to scuba diving since the first day I tried it, over 12 years ago. My passion for fieldwork and proactive conservation led me to pursue a PhD program that would incorporate my practical skills with scientific rigour.

We often think of ourselves as separate from the natural environment, especially from tropical coral reefs when we live far away or in cities, however, human survival relies upon ecosystems services and functions. I enjoy researching a subject which has such wide implications for the health of the environment that we are a part of.


Jenny is one of the University of Glasgow’s Future World Changers: students with ambitions to improve lives across the globe. Follow their journeys using #UofGFWC.

Jenny's progress